On November 25, the world said goodbye to Diego Maradona, whose prowess and mind-blowing skills on the pitch brought Argentina to a 3–2 victory over West Germany in the 1986 World Cup in front of 114,600 fans inside Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. For the duration of that match, Maradona was forced to contend with West German midfielder Lothar Matthaus, but thankfully, a pass to Jorge Burruchaga 86 minutes into the second half of the match gave Argentina the upper hand, making them champions.
So many memories. It’s hard to believe this took place 34 years ago. Growing up in Canada, although I occasionally watched bits and pieces of soccer on television, I never truly became acquainted with the World’s Game until much later in life. Even though I was eight years old at the time, I still remember the World Cup and that final match on tv. Back then, Diego Maradona was as much of a household name in hockey and baseball-obsessed households in the United States and Canada as Wayne Gretzky, Reggie Jackson, and Michael Jordan was in other parts of the world.
It goes without saying that Maradona had a fantastic career as both a player and a coach. Journalists hailed him as the greatest player of his generation, some even stating that he was the best footballer of all time. In 1999, World Soccer ranked the striker second only to Pele in the list of the 100 Greatest Players of the 20th Century.
A former international teammate, Baresi, stated in an interview that Maradona, when he was in top form, was unstoppable. Always professional on the pitch, this legendary footballer nevertheless was a controversial sports figure, drawing criticism for having a short temper. In February 1994, after being consistently hounded by the press, Maradona took a shot at journalists with an air rifle outside of his Buenos Aires home. That same year, during the World Cup, he tested positive for the banned substance ephedrine.
In 2000, the year Maradona retired from playing, he was awarded the FIFA Player of the Century Award. For the next two decades, he coached and managed various clubs, including Racing Club, Al-Wasl, and Gimnasia de La Plata.
Looking back to my childhood and youth in the 1980s and 1990s, when soccer was slowly becoming more popular, yet often had to compete with baseball and other popular summer activities, it’s obvious that Diego Maradona and so many of these great international stars influenced the growth of the beautiful game in North America over the past three to four decades. Many of these players also found themselves on the rosters of teams in the now-defunct North American Soccer League and Canadian Soccer League.
These days — especially where I live in Atlantic Canada — there are more kids playing soccer than baseball. In fact, ball diamonds have found themselves outnumbered by soccer pitches. I’ve spoken with friends and associates who have immigrated to Canada from the British Isles, Continental Europe, Latin America, and from all around the globe who’ve told me that soccer is well on its way to being as popular in the United States and Canada as it is everywhere else.
Chris is a professional freelance writer. He uses his expert knowledge, skills, and personal experience in writing about such topics as real estate, travel, fitness, politics, and digital marketing to create innovative, entertaining, and engaging content for his clients. He writes for Medium, TravelPlus, ThriveGlobal, The Canadian Firearms Journal, and more. His specialty is writing articles and books as well as copywriting and editing and proofreading.